My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Need a Happiness Boost? Read a Good Book.

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I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now.

I’m in four book groups, if you can believe it, and one recurring challenge for each of the book groups is picking the next book. At the last meeting, as we were debating various options, one of my friends said, “I just really want to read something that I love. It’s been a while since I read a book that was great.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I read a huge amount, both for fun and for work (in fact, one of the things I love about my work is that it gives me way to make reading a billable hour). I love many different kinds of book, and I read many different kinds of books. But when I read a book that I love, I always get a chill and think, “Yes, THIS is what reading is about!”

I’ve noticed that some people make reading a bit of a chore. They choose books that they think they “ought” to read. Remember, it’s supposed to be fun! Of course, it’s worthwhile to read challenging books and books about weighty subjects, but I also make sure to read plenty of books just because I want to read them.

I’ve altered my reading habits, to make sure that I have enough time to read the books I want to read: I now stop reading a book if I don’t like it; I re-read as much as I want; I read according to my inclinations, instead of reading what I think I “need” to read. For example, right now, for reasons I can’t explain, I feel compelled to read the complete journals of Thomas Merton, and I’m not even a big Merton fan. I remind myself of what Samuel Johnson observed: “What we read with inclination makes a much stronger impression. If we read without inclination, half the mind is employed in fixing the attention; so there is but one half to be employed on what we read.” (Here are additional tips on how to get more reading done.)

If you’d like to read about the subject of happiness, here is a list of some of my favorite books in various categories. Ah, it makes me happy just to read the titles of these books! They’re all so good. And of course, there’s always The Happiness Project if you haven’t read it yet.

Have you read anything terrific lately?

* Awwww, completely sentimental little video. A howling baby calmed by a howling dog, a la Nana. (Speaking of good books, if you’ve never read J. M. Barrie’s strange, brilliant Peter Pan, get your hands on a copy now. It’s not what you expect.)

* If you’d like to volunteer as a Super-Fan, to help me from time to time, email me at grubin at gretchenrubin dot com (just write “Super-Fan” in the subject line) or sign up here. I so appreciate your help!